Simply put, hospice is comforting and supportive care given to the dying and their family near the end of life. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, “the center of (hospice) care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.” Thus hospice care strives to bring comfort and dignity to the end of life, rather than a cure to an illness.
First of all, hospice care is team-based health care. It is care provided by caring inter-disciplinary team of medical professionals. The hospice team consists of doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, home health aide, social workers, chaplains, therapists (physical, occupational and speech), massage therapist, music therapist, pathologists, pharmacists, family, friends, loved ones and volunteers. This team strives to provide a comforting and supportive environment for the patient that respects human dignity and the end of life wishes of the patient and family.
As might be expected, hospice care is very similar to home care. The main difference is not in the type of services provided, but in the objectives to be met by the services. Home care focuses on curing illnesses or recovering abilities, so that the individual can live with greater independence and dignity. Hospice focuses on providing care which minimizes discomfort and maximizes the ability of the patient and family to support and comfort each other when recovery is not anticipated, so that the individual can die with greater independence and dignity. Questions you may ask yourself when deciding if hospice is right for you or a loved one:
- Would you like to die with dignity and without painful or heroic life-saving measures?
- Would you one prefer to have comfortable family-oriented surroundings during the last days of life?
- Would you like to have medical care that is focused on patient and family comfort when the end is near?
- Would you like to have more control of the medical measures taken at or near the time of death?
- Should you like to have care that recognizes psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of the dying process?
- Would you like to ease the burden of daily care giving so that everyone can focus on sharing time together?
- Would you and your loved one like to have a support system to help everyone cope during both the terminal illness and the bereavement?
These are but a few reasons to choose hospice. Ultimately choosing hospice care is a choice about how you and your loved one choose to face death – and spend that last precious time together – once a medical cure has ceased to be an option.
How Do I Qualify for Hospice?
Regrettably, the primary qualification for hospice is having a terminal illness or condition, where the person is believed to have less than 6 months to live. The diagnosis (a qualifying terminal illness) and the prognosis (death expected within 6 months) must both be certified by a medical doctor to qualify. Additionally, the patient must elect to stop all curative treatment of their terminal illness. Should a patient choose to resume treatment however, they may, but they must be discharged from hospice until treatment is again discontinued. The patient may – of course – continue to receive any desired treatment for aliments which are unrelated to the diagnosed terminal illness.
Once certified, you may remain on hospice as long as the illness progresses. Periodically the case will be re-certified to insure that the qualifying criteria are still being met. Should one’s health improve – say, due to an unexpected remission of the illness – or should you elect to discontinue hospice care – say to receive a potentially curative treatment for the illness – our staff will work with you prior to discharge to insure that you continue to receive the necessary home health care services. In every case, we will work with your doctor and make all the necessary calls in order to care for your needs in a timely manner.
At Superior, hospice is typically practiced as a form of palliative home care; however, patients in skilled nursing facilities or assisted living may also qualify to receive Superior’s hospice services.